Divorce Law: What Is A Parenting Agreement?

What Is A Parenting Agreement?

by May 14, 2021Divorce

If you are considering a divorce, or are in the process of getting one, and have children — one of the most important tasks to complete is establishing a parenting agreement. Regardless of how angry or difficult your ex-spouse may be, putting your children first is and doing everything possible to ensure their well being needs to be your first priority.

As difficult as it may sound, it’s important to keep an open mind. If necessary, consider seeking professional help from a therapist, family mediator, or child custody evaluator.

Parenting Agreements Explained

A formal parenting agreement is a written document that defines how you and your former spouse will share time and decision making responsibilities regarding your children.

Having a parenting agreement is helpful for setting clear expectations and responsibilities post-divorce and paves the way for a more successful joint parenting experience. It also helps reduce the potential for conflict as time goes on.

If desired, a parenting agreement can be made into a court order, so that you have a means to enforce the agreement if your ex doesn’t maintain their responsibilities or honor the terms.

Regardless of if you opt for the court order option, some topics every parenting agreement should cover include:

  • Custody and living arrangements
  • Visitation rights
  • Child support, expenses, and other financial issues
  • Education
  • Medical care
  • Religion
  • Holidays

While it may be difficult, the process of creating a parenting agreement allows you and your former spouse to (hopefully) have an honest conversation about your children’s immediate and long term care.

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How To Create A Parenting Agreement

While it’s certainly possible for you and your ex-spouse to come up with a parenting agreement without the help of a third party, may couples going through a divorce find that the help of a child custody mediator or similar professional to be very beneficial.

Either way, before sitting down to hammer out the details of your parenting agreement, there are some documents that may be helpful to have before you begin. You may not have, or need, all of the following, but whatever you do have will be helpful:

  • Court documents you have filed or received, such as summons, petitions, complaints, affidavits, etc.
  • Correspondence from attorneys, child custody officials, mediators, etc. regarding your divorce, separation, custody, paternity, or child support.
  • Court orders regarding your separation, divorce, paternity, or custody.
  • Any previous legal agreements between you and your former spouse.
  • Reports, letters, evaluations, or other written documents from your children’s school officials, counselors, and therapists.

Again, you may not have or need any of the above when you sit down to begin crafting your parenting agreement, but if you do, make sure to bring them — especially if you decide to enlist the help of a third party.

Finalizing Your Parenting Agreement

Once your agreement is finalized, it’s a good idea to make it a part of your divorce file and have the judge approve it. It also may be part of your final settlement agreement or filed separately but, either way, a judge will sign it so that it becomes enforceable.

Remember, once signed by a judge, if either parent does not comply with the terms, the other can return to court and ask the judge to require the offending parent to do what the agreement says.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

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